I’ve been making my way through the text, *Mathematics for Human Flourishing* by Frances Su and Christopher Jackson. At first, as I read his claims and poked a bit at the math, my response was my usual: I like algebra because it is neat and tidy and, best of all, you can check your own work! It’s a closed system that eliminates pesky guessing and rewards precision. But there is no “play” for me in math, just the satisfaction of a completed and well done exercise.

Su’s contention is that we need to play with the math. I had been feeling pretty left out of that claim, until I realized that I was thinking about my lunch in terms of math….

I had soup for lunch yesterday. I ate it in a round bowl that has sloped sides.

Each time I took one spoonful out of the bowl it was, within the constraints of mathematical modeling, about the same volume as all the other spoonfuls, give or take a tomato chunk.

However, while the amount removed in each spoonful may have been (virtually) equivalent to the amount removed in the other spoonfuls, the *depth* of the soup remaining in the bowl changed by a different amount with each spoonful, due to the shape of the bowl, specifically, the sloped sides.

Thinking about this made me remember calculus, where we took slices on a coordinate plane and sliced them thinner and thinner, infinitely thinner, while also adding them up to determine the area under the curve. My “slices” of soup were not particularly thin; in fact, I suspect they got “fatter” as I moved towards the bottom of the bowl, where a spoonful of soup brought the level down more than an earlier spoonful.

With Su in mind, I started to wonder about what questions could I ask from this experience. What would I call the shape of each soup slice, since the tops and bottoms were circles but the heigh was slanted and the circles were different sizes, like a cross between a trapezoid and a circle? Could I represent the situation algebraically? Would I need calculus, which measures change, or was it discrete? What would I need to do as a teacher to encourage students to play mathematically?

It has been a long couple of months, more like over a year, since I’ve had the time or mental stamina to do any thinking just for its own sake or for the satisfaction of wondering. I didn’t answer my own question, but I’m re-inspired to think about how to support my students in getting to a place where they can see math as an option for exploration.

“Low performance should not be used as an excuse to rob students of opportunity.” (Su, F. & Jackson, C., *Mathematics from Human Flourishing*, pg. 156)